Imposing targeted sanctions would be our next step in Ethiopia, White House says, comments on visits by Presidents of Zambia and Ghana

Eleven days after President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed an executive order establishing a new sanctions regime to help push for a resolution of the ongoing crisis in northern Ethiopia, and a day after hundreds of supporters of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali gathered by the White House in Washington D.C. on Monday for a protest, the Biden administration said on Tuesday that “imposing targeted sanctions” would be their next step on the Horn of Africa’s nation.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, Tuesday, September 21, 2021. It was President Joe Biden first address at the UNGA since inauguration on January 20, 2021. Photo/Reuters 
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, Tuesday, September 21, 2021. It was President Joe Biden first address at the UNGA since inauguration on January 20, 2021. Photo/Reuters

Asked by Today News Africa‘s Simon Ateba whether President Biden has a deadline for the sanctions he authorized on September 17 to go into effect, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said targeted sanctions will follow if peace is not achieved on the ground.

Psaki clarified that the White House continues to urge all parties to “end ongoing hostilities, take steps to initiate discussions to achieve a negotiated ceasefire, and grant unimpeded humanitarian access.”

“The United Nations Secretary-General, African Union leaders, and a growing number of international actors have made clear there is no military solution,’ she noted, speaking at the White House daily press conference. “Unless the parties to the conflict make clear changes, the administration is prepared to take aggressive action under this executive order to impose targeted sanctions.”

Psaki interaction with Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba starts from the 37th minute of the recording

Psaki said President Biden’s executive order gives the administration the authority to impose sanctions, adding that “imposing targeted sanctions would be the next step here.”

Despite the sanctions, Psaki noted that the United States continues to support Ethiopia with over a billion dollars this year, an assertion that the administration is not against Ethiopia but against instability, war, famine and human rights abuses.

“I would also note that we are continuing to provide substantial humanitarian assistance to Ethiopia, totaling over $1 billion this year alone, and we’ll continue to support the people of Ethiopia with assistance throughout the country,” she said.

Psaki also commented on why the first two African Presidents to visit the White House under the Biden administration were received by Vice President Kamala D. Harris rather than President Biden himself.

Last Thursday, Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo became the second African leader to visit the White House under the Biden administration, a day after the new President of Zambia Hakainde Hichilema was hosted by Vice President Kamala D. Harris.

Psaki clarified that because President Biden himself did not host the first two African leaders to visit the White House since his inauguration on January 20 should not be misconstrued as Mr. Biden is “absolutely committed to our relationships with Africa” although he is also ready to call out issues “where we have concern”, even as he is “looking for places we can work together.”
 
“Having the Vice President of the United States have these high-level meetings shows the commitment of the Biden-Harris administration to these relationships and to having open and constructive dialogues,” she said. “And hopefully, the leaders who were here will take it as exactly that.”

On Monday, hundreds of supporters of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali protested at the White House, calling on the Biden administration to cancel the sanctions regime imposed on September 17.

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Many of the protesters described the TPLF asa terrorist organization, asserting that the Ethiopian government is right not to sit down with its leaders for a peaceful resolution of the raging conflict.

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The Biden administration has said negotiations were the first step for peace to return Ethiopia.

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